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11Chapter III.

For this present time is filled with all things that are most contrary4949    The text reads ἐναντιωτήτων, for which Codex Anglicus has ἑναντιωτάτων. to each other—births and deaths, the growth of plants and their uprooting, cures and killings, the building up and the pulling down of houses, weeping and laughing, mourning and dancing. At this moment a man gathers of earth’s products, and at another casts them away; and at one time he ardently desireth the beauty of woman, and at another he hateth it. Now he seeketh something, and again he loseth it; and now he keepeth, and again he casteth away; at one time he slayeth, and at another he is slain; he speaketh, and again he is silent; he loveth, and again he hateth. For the affairs of men are at one time in a condition of war, and at another in a condition of peace; while their fortunes are so inconstant, that from bearing the semblance of good, they change quickly into acknowledged ills. Let us have done, therefore, with vain labours. For all these things, as appears to me, are set to madden men, as it were, with their poisoned stings. And the ungodly observer of the times and seasons is agape for this world,5050    Or, age. exerting himself above measure to destroy the image5151    πλάσμα. of God, as one who has chosen to contend against it5252    Or, Him. from the beginning onward to the end.5353    The Greek text is, καιροσκόπος δή τις πονηρὸς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦτον περικέχηνεν, ἀφανίσαι ὑπερδιατεινόμενος τὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ πλάσμα, ἐξ ἀρχῆς αὐτῷ μέχρι τέλους πολεμεῖν ᾑρημένος. It is well to notice how widely this differs from our version of iii. 11: “He hath made everything beautiful in his time,” etc. I am persuaded, therefore, that the greatest good for man is cheerfulness and well-doing, and that this shortlived enjoyment, which alone is possible to us, comes from God only, if righteousness direct our doings. But as to those everlasting and incorruptible things which God hath firmly established, it is not possible either to take aught from them or to add aught to them. And to men in general, those things, in sooth, are fearful and wonderful;5454    The text is, ᾧ τινι οὖν, ἀλλ᾽ ἔστιν, ἐκεινα φοβερά τε ὁμοῦ καὶ θαυμαστά. and those things indeed which have been, abide so; and those which are to be, have already been, as regards His foreknowledge. Moreover, the man who is injured has God as his helper. I saw in the lower parts the pit of punishment which receives the impious, but a different place allotted for the pious. And I thought with myself, that with God all things are judged and determined to be equal; that the righteous and the unrighteous, and objects with reason and without reason, are alike in His judgment. For that their time is measured out equally to all, and death impends over them, and in this the races of beasts and men are alike in the judgment of God, and differ from each other only in the matter of articulate speech; and all things else happen alike to them, and death receives all equally, not more so in the case of the other kinds of creatures than in that of men. For they have all the same breath of life, and men have nothing more; but all are, in one word, vain, deriving their present condition5555    σύστασιν. from the same earth, and destined to perish, and return to the same earth again. For it is uncertain regarding the souls of men, whether they shall fly upwards; and regarding the others which the unreasoning creatures possess, whether they shall fall downward. And it seemed to me, that there is no other good save pleasure, and the enjoyment of things present. For I did not think it possible for a man, when once he has tasted death, to return again to the enjoyment of these things.5656    [The key to the interpretation of this book, as to much of the book of Job, is found in the brief expostulation of Jeremiah (chap. xii. 1), where he confesses his inability to comprehend the world and God’s ways therein, yet utters a profession of unshaken confidence in His goodness. Here Solomon, in monologue, gives vent to similar misgivings; overruling all in the wonderful ode with which the book concludes. I say Solomon, not unadvisedly.]


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